“Abe parked in the hills above Monrovia. A crystal clear night.
Lights like diamonds, glistening all the way to Long Beach.
Kim snuggled close to him.
The car radio was tuned to KRLA
Dinah Washington singing ‘What a Difference a Day Makes.’
Art Laboe urging listeners to head out to El Monte Legion Stadium on Saturday night. Ran through the singers and groups appearing there. Kim took note of the names. Little Julian Herrera. Don Julian and the Meadowlarks. Don and Dewey. Ernie Freeman. The Coasters. Johnny Otis.
She twiddled the dial.
Al Javis’s Make Believe Ballroom.
DJs playing black music.
Kim desperately wanted in on the action.
As she explored what the dial had to offer, she said,’You know, this is just the tip of the iceberg…’ ”
from Cry for a Nickel, Die for a Dime by Woody Haut
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been traveling in a deeply noir, parallel-L.A. universe (circa 1960). It’s a mood that will be a little difficult to shake. Jazz pacing, blues heart, Cry for A Nickel, Die for a Dime spins you through an L.A. that wouldn’t have been on any tourist’s map: East Pasadena/Hastings Ranch, South Los Angeles, Monrovia and, perhaps most poignantly, that twilight of old Downtown just as it nods off for its 50-year slumber.
Duplicity, murder and a maze of con games keep things in flux in freelance photographer Abe Howard’s world.
What deeply contributed to the mood that I’m still swimming in is the music — on disc, on bandstands, on wish lists and — like for Abe and Kim in the above moment — traveling over the air. While L.A. as place becomes clear on the page, to get a sense of what you might be drifting through aurally, there’s now a playlist of music that keeps company with what’s on the pages. You can navigate over here to Woody’s blog for some backstory and a link to a lush imaginary soundtrack.
image: Lights of Los Angeles and adjoining cities, as far distant as 60 miles, as seen from Inspiration Point, Mt. Lowe, 5,000 feet above the sea via Water and Power Associates